Sunday, July 31, 2005
That took awhile: One month and five days after The New York Times ran an article allowing a lawyer to lodge an anonymous, ad hominem against director Peter Jackson, the Times finally acknowledges its faux pas.
An article in Business Day on June 27 headed "Lawsuit of the Rings" described a court action by Peter Jackson, director of "The Fellowship of the Ring," contending that New Line Cinema, a unit of Time Warner, had committed fraud in handling the film's subsidiary rights. The article included a quotation attributed to a lawyer for New Line, said to be involved in the suit but not further identified, contending that Mr. Jackson had already received an enormous amount of money from the company and asserting, "There's a certain piggishness involved here."
The Times's policy does not permit the granting of anonymity to confidential news sources "as cover for a personal or partisan attack." In fairness the quotation should not have appeared.
While this was an ethical black eye for the Times, the article also apparently had a slew of factual errors too.
The article also referred incompletely to an assertion of "self-dealing," the sale of subsidiary rights to other companies under the Time Warner umbrella, and to the way it could affect the film's gross revenues, upon which Mr. Jackson's percentage is based. The possibility that such deals lowered the gross revenues is an allegation in the lawsuit, not an established fact.
The article also omitted context for a comment by Robert Schwartz, an entertainment lawyer hired by New Line, that litigants are willing to settle for far less than what they initially claim. He says he was speaking in general about such lawsuits, not specifically about the parties in Mr. Jackson's suit.
The article and a related chart misstated the role of Warner Books in the distribution of subsidiary rights for the "Lord of the Rings" films. Warner Books did not receive such rights. The chart referred incorrectly to rights for foreign theatrical exhibition, home video and television markets sold to Warner Brothers International. New Line sold Warner Brothers International less than 30 percent of such rights, not a majority. The article also misstated the name of the music division of Time Warner that had the rights to the film's soundtrack. It was Warner Brothers Records (now the Warner Music Group), not Warner Records.